Monday, November 11, 2013

Toasting marshmallows on Pacaya Volcano. Journey of a single Mum and her son.

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We have been staying in Antigua for over a week already.  There is so much to do. We could stay a month!
But so far we have not yet managed to see an active volcano in Central or South America.  There is always a reason we don’t get there.
So today there is no excuses. Today is the day.
I have booked and paid for it.  I have also heard it is a pretty steep climb, and to ensure we have horses, we have booked those through the travel desk too.
The van collects us and a total of seven in our party and we head off for the 1.5 hour journey.
We seem to have a nice bunch of people.  We get to the base of the volcano.  We complete a form and buy our tickets up with are 50 Quetsales each.  My son is 8 years old, so they don’t charge me for him.
The horses I soon discover are way cheaper if rented there.  Only here they are 80 Quetsales each way. We paid 200 Quetsales each. 
But I later find out this is for a return journey.
The toilets for once are free.
Kids run around trying to sell hiking wood sticks for $3.
Others try to sell all sorts of things, and kids are all around us.
We get on our horses, and head up with the group.  Within 5 minutes a larger lady and her husband stop and can’t go on. She refuses to hire a horse and they turn back.
Another lady hires a horse.  This is slippery and tiring. The horses are even slipping and I tell Explorason to hang onto the front of the saddle.
There are plenty of toilet and resting places along the way.
The plants and their uses are described to us.
This plant is used for the hands - I think they make soap.
We hop off and stretch our legs.  Police warm themselves around a fireplace.
As we head to the top it gets cooler.  Soon we have two new layers of clothing on and jackets. I wish I had bought thick fleece.
We get near the top and the volcanic sand is black and slippery.
Finally the horses can go no further.
We buy two small Snickers bars at 15 Quetsales each.
Then we head off as a group across the sand in an area that reminds me of outer space.
It is pretty exciting to see lava from the 2010 eruption.
It is even more exciting to sit in a steam hole.
Within a minute I’m hot and sweaty.
It is nearing dark and we have not yet hit the hardened volcanic scoria.
We slip and slide and a few fall.  It is really hard to walk on.
Soon we get to a hot rock section.
Now comes the exciting part.
We have snapped off sticks with prong along our journey and brought them to the top.
It is marshmallow toasting time.
I’m glad we have our own stick – the dogs are fast licking the ones left behind.  Others don’t notice and use them – yuk!
But we have a great time and as we brought a packet of marshmallows ourselves, as well as the packet from the guide, we have heaps to toast. In fact we toast til we feel sick.
We toast on in the darkness and the glow of the rocks.
A couple get frightened in the group, so we pull out our flashlights to head back.
It is really hard going getting back.
We only walk 5 minutes when there is a series of eruptions and the sky lights up and sparks fly in the sky.  I was mesmerized. There was no way I was going to stop and pull out the camera.  This was just a ‘wow moment’.
With the flashlights off we stood and enjoyed the display God made. Just incredible. Way better than any fireworks I have seen.
Then came a bit of a panicked.
So we move on.
I could have stood for an hour and was disappointed we didn’t.  We were late. So as we tried to scurry up the soft sides I didn’t see a large volcanic rock and completely whacked my left knee.  Oh it hurt.
The horses waited for us, but to me the fact they slipped and had trouble coming up, there was no way we were going to sit on one going down – especially not without helmets.
So it is no surprise when Explorason then falls over a rock. He hits his left knee also.
We sit and have a rest.  There is so much horse poop on the path I hope we are not sitting in any!
On we go.
It is late when we get to the base.
The kids are still there. Trying to get given food, money and flashlights.
We all feel pretty excited about all we have seen and done.
We drive back in silence, with my son asleep on my lap.
The whole trip took 6.5 hours.
It was worth every Quetsale, and every minute!


  1. Still an amazing journey Ruth. I love the shot of the two of you on the horse.Your son is getting a great education for when he studies art.Geoff Thompson

  2. Thanks Geoff - we are really really loving Guatemala - it is a fun and beautiful place with lovely people!

  3. Great, thanks for sharing this article. Really looking forward to read more.

  4. Thanks Joanne for taking the time to read my blog. The journey is amazing. We are setting up our own web-site this week. It will be f you want to move ver and follow us more


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